How to Become a Police Officer


As long as there is crime in the society, the demand for police officers will remain steady. Police officers fight crimes, uphold law, and make the society a safer place to live. With the rising crime rate, the complexity and nature of crime has evolved too, enhancing the demand for more police officers.

A police officer’s career can be challenging in many ways. However, it is ranked as a noble profession and receives public gratitude very often. If you want to dedicate your life to protecting citizens and bringing peace to the society, this career may be a suitable choice for you.

Become a Police Officer
How to Become a Police Officer

Become a Police Officer

To become a police officer, candidates must meet the educational and training requirements in their state. The requirements may vary slightly from state to state.  To prepare for a police officer’s career, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Get a High school Diploma or College Credits

Most states require candidates to have a high school diploma. This is the minimum level of education needed for police officer’s job. However, in some states such as Texas, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement. Candidates with a military background may seek exemption.

  1. Meet the minimum requirements

Before you are admitted for training at your local police academy, you must first check to see if you meet the basic requirements. The applicant:

  • Must have a U.S. citizenship
  • Should be at least 21 years old
  • Must have a valid driver’s license
  • Must be physically agile and in good shape
  • Must have a 20/20 vision and hearing with less than a 30 decibel loss
  • Must be of good character

Felony convictions, ill-health, criminal offenses above class C misdemeanors, illegal drug use, and pending litigation may disqualify an applicant.

  1. Training

In some states such as New York, applicants must pass an entry test to be considered for police officers’ training.  There are many law enforcement training academies operating at county, region, and state level.  The training program will consist of classroom based learning and field training. In the initial phase of the program, applicants will be required to attend classes where they will cover important topics such as:

  • Investigations
  • Juvenile law procedures
  • Ethics and integrity
  • Constitutional law
  • Domestic violence
  • Self-defense
  • Criminal law
  • Conflict management
  • Stress prevention and management
  • Community policing

Police officers must have a thorough understanding of local and federal laws to become efficient police officers.

  1. Field Training

Field training is usually the final phase of police officers’ training programs and can take 8-12 weeks, depending upon the state. During this phase, recruits will learn how to apply classroom instructions in real-life situations and perform patrol duties.

Recruits work under the supervision of a trained police officer throughout the program. They are taught how to employ self-defense techniques, use firearms, drive patrol cars, and understand the code of ethics and police protocol procedures. The training program is physically rigorous.

Alongside physical training, the program will also help recruits build skills needed for the career. These typically include communication, management, analysis, observation, problem-solving, and decision making skills.

 

  1. Interviews, Drug Screening and Medical Tests

Applicants must successfully pass a series of interviews, medical tests and drug tests. These tests are conducted to learn about the illicit use of substances and medical complications (if any). Some law enforcement agencies may also include a lie detector test as a part of the hiring process. The requirements for such tests will vary from place to place.

Career Prospects

Police officers are usually assigned non-supervisory positions in the initial stage of their career. The career can be challenging and dangerous in many ways. After becoming a police officer, you will be assigned a duty; your job responsibilities will generally include:

  • Responding to emergency situations
  • Enforcing law
  • Conducting traffic stops
  • Writing reports
  • Arresting suspects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers made a median annual income of $56,980 in 2012. The income level can vary from place to place. Police officers can also move up the career ladder and qualify for a promotion after gaining substantial work experience and education.